When Art Becomes Yoga

What happens when we enter into an art room? I am not just talking about a gallery in a museum where there are various works on the walls, but rather a room that in itself becomes the work. A room in which when we enter, time seems to stop, all of our senses are expanded to their edge, and we take a minute to reflect. How do we get this meditative experience from art?

There are a couple of spaces like this in the Phillips: the Rothko Room and the Laib Wax Room. Maybe it is because of my roots in yoga, but these meditative spaces continue to be my favorite to frequent. I still remember the first time I stepped into each of them. Somehow, everything became clear to me, yet nothing made sense. This feeling never goes away, no matter how many times I enter and exit. Part of me feels trapped in this time and space, yet I am perfectly comfortable being there. I feel so comfortable because the art supports me. As I slowly drift into my own thoughts, the art is a crutch that remains a constant focal point for what I am experiencing.

These spaces achieve this in a different way:

Rothko provides a variety of images to rest the eyes on, allowing the viewer the ability to take a closer look inward. In yoga instructor terms, this is called “holding the space,” when a teacher creates a safe space for participants to relax fully.

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The Rothko Room at The Phillips Collection. Photo: Benjamin Resine

Laib does the meditation for you. When one enters his room, the surrounding hue of gold and sweet but subtle smell of wax mutes your senses, and your thoughts soon follow. This creates a buzz of relaxation and meditation that makes the space so pleasing.

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The Laib Wax Room at The Phillips Collection

This experience looks different to every visitor. Just like every yogi needs and takes something different from the practice, each visitor is in need of something different when they come to these rooms. They allow for viewers to engage with art in a way that is deeply personal and that is just as beautiful as the art itself.

Britta Galanis, Marketing & Communications Intern

Between Absence and Presence: Rising River Blues

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(left) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Mattie When you Marry, 1999. Charcoal on wood and found objects. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York (right) Whitfield Lovell, Whispers—Rising River Blues, 1999. Charcoal on wood with found objects, 90 1/2 x 52 1/2 x 48 in. Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

In Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works, the two tableaux pictured above (Mattie When You Marry at left and Rising River Blues at right) face each other on either end of a gallery. They were originally conceived as part of a larger installation that the artist developed in 1999 during a residency in Denton, Texas. Presented here, the single female and male figure represent the collective lives of Quakertown, the rural African American community that once thrived in the center of Denton from 1875 until 1924. In 1924, the residents were displaced when they were perceived as a threat to a nearby all white girls school. To help summon their memory, Lovell immersed himself in thousands of old family photographs from the Texas African American Photography Archive in Dallas.

The melodic sounds of “Rising River Blues” emanate from the phonograph you see in Rising River Blues and set the tone for the piece. The artist stimulates our sense of sound and sight with the textured layering of strewn clothes evocative of disembodied individuals, thereby inviting the viewer into a space that hovers between absence and presence.

Rising River Blues
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
Rising river blues, runnin’ by my door
They runnin’, sweet mama, like they haven’t run before

I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on your street
I got to move in the alley, I ain’t ‘lowed on the street
These rising river blues sure have got me beat

Mmm, mmmm, mmm, mmmm, hmmmm
Mmm, mmm, mmmm, mmm, hmmm,
Mmm, mmmmm

Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
Come here, sweet mama, let me speak my mind
To cure these blues gon’ take a long, long time
–lyrics by George Carter, 1929

Whitfield Lovell: The Kin Series and Related Works is on view through Jan. 8, 2017.

ArtGrams: Recent Acquisitions

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@shamp_jeff shared this still of Brian Dailey’s video “Jikai” (2013)

In  this month’s ArtGrams, we share your photos of our recent acquisitions galleries. From Annette Messager’s plush toy installation to Brian Dailey’s video artwork to Franz Erhard Walther’s participatory Red Song, these galleries highlight some of the contemporary works in our collection.

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Visitors have been fascinated by Annette Messager’s “Mes petites effigies (My Little Effigies)” (1989-90), including Instagrammer @thearthouze, who snapped this photo of the installation

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Instagrammer @lydiawawa shared “Four Courts/ Dublin A and B” by Jan Dibbets (1983)

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Instagrammer @kerryscheidt: “Franz Erhard Walther ‘Red Song’ as interpreted by @davidkfreeman

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Cuddly or creepy? Instagrammer @rianmack zooms in on Annette Messager’s installtion

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“Copula” by Ernesto Neto uses gallery space creatively. Photo captured by Instagrammer @cehhoerr

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Instagrammer @blindobject also zoomed in close for this photo of Juliao Sarmento’s “Tirar a Renda E Soprar na Flor (To Take Off the Lace and Blow the Flower” (1997)

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A recent acquisition by Kara Walker, “Crest of Pine Mountain, where General Polk Fell” (2005). Photo by @nomadyard

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Instagrammer @h.m.jacobs’s view of Annette Messager’s installation